Thursday, September 13, 2018

Paper: "The Rest is Silence" by James R. Benn

Paper: The Rest is Silence by James R. Benn, 2014, 9781616952662.

Captain Billy Boyle is still working for his Uncle-By-A-Cousin's-Marriage Ike in Europe. He's a investigator and troubleshooter that is sent out to quash trouble that can negatively effect military operations. This time Benn has Boyle heading to Southwest England where part of the D-Day invasion force has been living and training.

A unidentified body has washed onto the beach of Slapton Sands. Borne ashore by the tides that run every six hours the body has been in the water for up to a month. Boyle is sent to investigate because the area is top secret. If a German spy got among the locals and the troops the invasion plans of Western France could be jeopardized. Boyle has to determine who the dead guy was and make sure he was not a spy.

Along for the ride with Boyle is his Polish sidekick  and fellow investigator, Kaz. Kaz is a aristocrat, Oxford graduate, and wealthy man about town. Kaz has an Oxford pal who is convalescing after his RAF plane was shot down. The pal has been inviting Kaz to visit so Boyle have a place to stay in the super fancy estate house.

Since Boyle is an ever nosey street cop he notices the family tension at the estate. Kaz's pal, David, has bad facial burns from combat and his wife can only bear to look at the unburned side of his face. Kaz's sister and brother in law are on the outs and staying at the estate under the grace of the sisters's father, the Duke (or Count or Princeling or Squire or WhatEverTheFuck). Rounding out the house drama are a 90-year-old great aunt and a few servants.

The story moves along as Boyle drives around the seaside questioning people and following clues. He and Kaz are joined by a former Brit airman who was wounded in action and now a constable. The dead guy turns out to most likely be a mobster and the trio trace down the likely killers. The killers themselves are recently murdered and Benn and Co. drop the issue as a military matter.

That's all ok because Benn has Boyle in place for the massacre disaster of Exercise Tiger. Pre invasion plans include exercises in the area because the local beaches and inland are amazingly similar to Normandy. A initial exercise leaves many dead soldiers when a boat of troops land right before a naval bombardment. The next day the shores are littered with drowned dead after a convoy of Allied ships are attacked by German attack boats in the early morning. Two LST ships are sunk and there are about 700 dead (depending on what stats you prefer).

Boyle and Co. are then tasked with finding missing men who know invasion plans, finding out why a dead guy who was never on a ship is wet and dead on the beach, and also detangling the family drama and death at Rich People Manor.

Beenn's novels usually have a couple story lines going on. There is Boyle's Army mission plus either  Boyle's romantic drama or local rigmarole. The Upstairs, Downstairs angle on this one was weird. Benn was kinda mashing a drawing room mystery with a blood-and-guts mystery. The detour into black market crime and gangsters was also a little odd.

I still enjoyed the novel, of course. One of Benn's strengths is to put Boyle in the middle of a mostly unknown event or setting of WWII and giving us some nice period detail and information.

1. Gratuitous appearances by Yogi Berra (in the Navy) and Agatha Christie (visiting the home the Army took over).
2. The cumulative effect of death and combat and mental trauma. Billy has been in combat in several locations across Italy and North Africa and gets angry when soldiers do not take training seriously. He mentally considers the bravado of the naive.
3. Kaz's combat and war trauma gets a little heavy and overdone. Vacant stares over a dead fiancee and massacred family and combat experience.

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